A Hands-On Chinese New Year Party

Did you do anything fun for Chinese New Year? Hubby and I usually try to get dim sum every year, but this year, we did something even better.

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My friend Briana invited me over for a hands-on Chinese New Year party at her house. The plan – prepare her family’s recipes and learn how to fold dumplings and egg rolls and make other traditional dishes.

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When I arrived, Briana was frying up shrimp chips.

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The colorful discs are small and thin when they come out of the box, but they puff up to at least four times their original size as they fry in oil.

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The fruit platter was easy to put together – just add sliced oranges and stuff cherries into lychee fruit.

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With pineapple added to the center, the simple fruit platter was beautiful and colorful. The oranges are said to bring wealth and good luck.

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After some snacking and gathering, Briana kicked off the real hands-on fun with the party. The dining room table was set-up for dumpling and egg roll making and most of the guests found a seat there.

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I headed into the kitchen to learn about Tang Yuan. I’d never seen anything like it, so I was really curious to see what it was about.

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Glutinous rice is used to make a dough that is rolled into balls and then boiled till they float. Next, the dough balls are cooked in a sweet broth made with pandan leaves, ginger, and sugar.

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The soup is more like a dessert, but I didn’t mind eating it first. It’s always a good time for dessert!

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After finishing with the dessert soup, I checked out what the others were working on – folding egg rolls…

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…and steaming dumplings.

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Time for the big reveal…

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Oh yea!

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Hello, lovelies.

Nothing like freshly steamed dumplings. Briana said the dumplings are shaped like coins to symbolize wealth. I was curious about the coin shape reference since they don’t resemble the round shape of coins I’m familiar with, but this article mentioned that the shape is like ingot-shaped coins or yuanbao.

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These were served with a simple sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, and green onion.

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The dumplings and egg rolls were gobbled up almost as soon as they were cooked. They were both so great! Lucky for us, the group had prepared tons of food. And while batches and batches of Chinese New Year eats were prepared, cooked, and served, we got to enjoy good company from the fellow guests. Also not pictured, we had even more delicious eats that Briana prepared and other guests brought – fried taro root cakes, noodles, kimchi, Filipino sweet rice (that I brought), and Chinese BBQ chicken wings.

By the way, I learned from Steamy Kitchen that the egg rolls also have symbolism since they are shaped like gold bars and thus are said to bring wealth.

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After we’d stuffed ourselves on (mostly) savory eats, Briana got started on dessert #2 – Almond Cookies!

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Briana said she liked to make her cookies a little smaller than normal. They were pretty much bite-sized, and you couldn’t help but want to snack on them like chips.

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They were so yummy!

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And don’t forget about the tea!

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Thank you to Briana for opening up your home to us and sharing your family’s traditions! We had a blast!

Christmas Part Deux 2013

I hope you all had wonderful holidays this year!

We spent the first half of our Christmas celebrations with hubby’s family in Durham, NC, where we helped Santa bring the tree for the kiddos on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, I caught a 24 hour bug of some sorts and ended up sick on Christmas, so I didn’t take any photos from the day. I slept through a lot of the day, but I did get to partake in two of the key family events – Christmas morning and Christmas dinner. I definitely didn’t want to miss hubby’s family (especially the kids!) opening their presents or catching up with his extended family.

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We headed to Greenville the day after Christmas for part deux of our celebrations.

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By this point, I was not feeling 100%, but I definitely felt a lot better!

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Bailey, on the other hand, had an absolute blast.

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He got to open a ton of presents…

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…and this year my family even got him his own stocking with a “B” on it. So cute!

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I think he was feeling a bit like the Happy Bunny – “It’s all about me. Deal with it.”

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Mom made me some of her famous Get Well Soup (which I’ve blogged about before – click here for the recipe).

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We ended up having to push our Christmas dinner back a couple days (since I’m easing my way back to food), which I feel bad about, but better late than never, right? I’m just so thankful we’ve been able to spend so many days with each of our families. It’s so nice to have some good down time with the people we love to end the year.

A Christmas Eve Tradition

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

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…in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…with presents…and a Christmas tree. Yup, a tree! In hubby’s family, they have a unique tradition that Santa brings not only the presents, but the tree, too!

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So, us elves had a busy night on Christmas Eve, decorating the tree from head to toe.

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I love these lights. I actually think I saw this candle-looking bulb at the start of the opening choir scene of Home Alone 2!

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Merry Christmas to all those celebrating!

Does anyone else have a unique Christmas or Christmas Eve tradition?

Christmas Decorating and Bailey Claus 2013

We put our Christmas decorations up last week, which meant we had to put Bailey’s Bailey Claus outfit on for the first time this year. All the Christmas things get packed and unpacked together, so inevitably, Bailey watches us put ornaments on the tree with his holiday costume on…every year. Yup.

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The decorating wouldn’t be complete without holiday tunes (we played the Christmas station on Pandora) and fresh baked cookies. I tried adding some peanut butter and flaxseed meal to my emergency cookies, and the result was okay, but not blog-worthy. They fit the bill for that night, though.

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The large star lantern we picked up at IKEA is quickly becoming a favorite for me.

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I made these Snow Wo-Men ornaments a few years ago using styrofoam balls and Martha Stewart glitter. The eyes and mouth are made with seed beads. The flower is felt. The “scarf” is yarn, and the nose was hand-formed using bead clay. I made six of these wo-men, and I just love unpacking them from the ornament box.

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I have one week left of work, and then I’m taking vacation for the rest of the year. Thursday is my Friday, so the countdown starts (pretty much) now!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thanksgiving Weekend 2013

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.

I spent my post-Thanksgiving weekend with my family doing the usual – relaxing and eating well.

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I’ve got some food photos to share with you guys, but let’s be honest, you’re probably mostly excited about the Bailey ones. Here’s a preview – scroll down for the rest…

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I’ve been working on perfecting a lightened-up version of turkey tetrazzini.

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I’ve made roughly three to four batches over the last couple years, but it hasn’t been quite right. I haven’t gone to the extreme to make turkey just to experiment with the recipe, so I’m dependent on holidays. Not that I can’t roast a turkey just because it’s delicious, but it just hasn’t happened so far. I’m getting close on the recipe, but it’s not quite ready to share. Drats!

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We taste-tested my most recent batch for dinner over the weekend, starting with this small salad.

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The turkey tetrazzini was served with steamed green beans. Simple, but good.

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Oh, and I veganized a Paul Dean recipe. Did you know it was even possible!? I’m hoping to make a healthier version of this, as well. I want to experiment with some of the mix-ins first, though. This may not look like much, but I’m thinking it’s going to be a fantastic dessert and/or breakfast one day.

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Here’s one of the breakfasts from the weekend. The eggs were from my mom’s friend’s chickens. They’re so vibrantly yellow! We also had leftover ham and a freshly baked bagel from a local bagel shop, Greenfield’s. If you’re ever in the area, go see them and try one of these twisted rye bagels. So good!

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And here are those Bailey photos I promised…

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Hubby bought Bailey a new toy. It looks like a fox-ish reindeer, so we’re calling it “Foxy.” We name all of his toys because he’s pretty good at knowing their names. We can often ask him to get us one of his toys, and he’ll know which one to pick out. It’s so cute!

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On Sunday, dad got me to take photos of his new, favorite, vegan breakfast to share with you guys. It’s Nature’s Path granola with Silk yogurt, Silk soy milk, and plenty of ground flaxseed and hemp hearts on top. Oh, and if you’re looking to recreate it, remember to add a sliced banana on top…or mixed in. Whichever you prefer.

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While dad had his vegan breakfast, we had Western omelets with ham, onions, green pepper, and spinach.

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Besides lounging and eating, we managed to make it out on Saturday. I didn’t go anywhere on Friday, but I was ready to venture out the next day. We visited some of my favorites – Pita House, Coffee Underground, and Henry’s Smokehouse. We walked around downtown and visited some of the shops. I’m not a big fan of seeing movies, but sis talked me into seeing Frozen with her, playing up the “it’s a movie about sisters” thing.  We tried figuring out who was really good and really bad character-wise. I figured out one of the bad characters that Sis didn’t see coming. Overall, I thought it was a really cute movie, and I liked that it didn’t have the whole stereotypical princess theme going on.

Anywho, I can’t believe Christmas is in three weeks already. Decembers are typically fairly slow for me at the day job as most places are wrapping up projects, but this month is actually going to be really busy at work. I’m ready to buckle down and make things happen! But, I’ll also be looking for that Christmas vacation light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve got three business weeks of work ahead and then almost two weeks of time off. The goal is to end the year on a high at work while still balancing out my out of work hobbies and fitness. I don’t want working out to fall by the wayside, and I’m hoping to still make it three-four times a week. We’ll see how things go, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic so far!

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Thanks for stopping by!

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